Stem Cells Extend Stroke Treatment Window


PORTLAND, Ore. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Nearly 800,000 people have strokes every year in America. The best treatment, tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), has to be given within three hours, and doctors estimate only five percent of patients can make that window. A new treatment that is now in clinical trial could give patients precious additional time.

Sharon Thomas is back at work like nothing was ever wrong. But four years ago, she had a stroke.

“At that time, I couldn’t read, write, swallow or speak,” Thomas told Ivanhoe.

She was helicoptered to OHSU and the care of Wayne Clark, MD, Director, Oregon Stroke Center, Oregon Health & Science University. He asked if she wanted to be part of a trial for a stem cell treatment that might help her recover. (Read Full Interview)

“What this does, the stem cells are from very, very young cells, and they bathe the brain in this environment that makes it act like it’s young again,” explained Dr. Clark.

The stem cells also turn off the inflammatory response sent by the spleen to the brain. The bone marrow-derived stem cells come from a donor and are multiplied in a lab.

Doctor Clark continued, “It can be easily stored in a refrigerator, and mixed up quickly, and given by IV. So no specialized facilities will have to be … and a 36 hour window, so it could really allow a lot of patients to potentially benefit.”

Sharon made a significant recovery, like 70 percent of patients in the multistem trial. She credits it with giving her an edge.

Thomas said, “Every day it got better, and my mantra was, ‘every day is a good day,’ because I’m still here, I’m still improving.”

And she hopes more stroke patients have access to MultiStem.

Dr. Clark says it is also extremely important people are aware of the warning signs of stroke such as slurred speech or one side of the body feeling weak, paralyzed, or very numb. If you have these symptoms, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical care.

Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:          MB #4348

BACKGROUND: A stroke or “brain attack” can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to any area of the brain is cut off. As a result, the brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as muscle control or memory are lost. How a person is affected by their stroke depends on where in the brain the stroke occurs and how much of the brain is damaged as a result. Someone with a minor stroke may only have small problems such as weakness in an arm or leg. A person who suffered a larger stroke may be permanently paralyzed on one side of their body, or lose the ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will end up with some type of disability. Stroke symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg; especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion or trouble speaking and understanding, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of coordination or balance, and sudden severe headache with no known cause.


TREATMENT: To best determine the most appropriate treatment for a stroke, emergency teams need to evaluate the type of stroke a person is having and the areas of the brain affected by the stroke. They also need to rule out other possible causes, such as a brain tumor or a drug reaction. Several tests may be used to determine risk of stroke, including physical examination and/or blood tests, computerized tomography or CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, carotid ultrasound, cerebral angiogram, or an echocardiogram. To treat an ischemic stroke, doctors must quickly restore blood flow to the brain. Emergency treatment with medications such as aspirin or intravenous injection of tissue plasminogen activator or TPA may be given. Emergency procedures may involve medications to the brain, or mechanical clot removal.


NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Researchers conducted a multistem trial for stem cell treatment to help stroke victims recover. The stem cells are made from very young cells, and they create an environment that makes it act like a very young brain. They also turn off the inflammatory response sent by the spleen to the brain. Seventy percent of patients in the trial made a significant recovery. The treatment has no negative side effects, but might not be appropriate for cancer patients because it could make cancer cells grow faster.

(Source: Wayne Clark, MD)

CLARK SAYS: “I prefer to describe the action as allowing the brain to act like a young brain- increase its ability to recovery (greater plasticity). The bone marrow derived stem cells come from a donor’s bone marrow and are multiplied in the lab.”

MORE INFORMATION: Based on the promising results from the previous trial, MultiStem’s maker, Athersys expects to start its phase 3 clinical trial to treat stroke patients at medical centers nationwide in early 2018.


Wayne Clark

Scott Stachowiak

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Wayne Clark, MD

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